Tag Archives: WesPac Midstream LLC

Oil Train Victory in California’s East Bay – Wespac Application Withdrawn

PittsburgDC.org

Repost from the Contra Costa Times
[Editor:  A huge victory for our friends across the water!  Congratulations to the Pittsburg Defense Council and everyone who worked so hard to STOP WesPac.  See also: Reuters coverage.  – RS]

Pittsburg: Proposed WesPac oil-by-rail shipping terminal is dead

By Sam Richards, 12/09/2015 06:37:16 AM PST

PITTSBURG — Plans to convert a moribund PG&E tank farm into a regional oil storage facility appear dead after the company proposing the project backed out, according to a city report.

WesPac Midstream LLC’s proposed Pittsburg Terminal Project had been in development on and off for the past four years.

WesPac on Nov. 16 “submitted a formal request to withdraw their application completely and terminate all work on the project,” according to the city report released Tuesday afternoon. No explanation was given for the Houston-based company’s decision.

In a voice mail, City Manager Joe Sbranti said Tuesday, “They didn’t give us a reason; they just withdrew it.”

Art Diefenbach, WesPac’s Pittsburg project manager, could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

In April, WesPac eliminated a proposed element of its project, withdrawing plans for loading as many as five 104-car oil trainloads a week at the Pittsburg facility. Diefenbach said at the time that the “regulatory environment” surrounding rail shipments of crude oil made it impractical to launch such trains.

The city report made no mention of oil prices, or whether they had an effect on WesPac’s decision. But at $37.51 a barrel Tuesday, prices are at their lowest since February 2009, down from almost $108 a barrel on June 14. The low oil prices have rocked the stock markets in recent days.

He also said then that protests against the crude oil trains, locally and nationally, factored in to the decision to abandon the rail proposal.

The old tanks are less than a half-mile from hundreds of houses and apartments on West 10th Street and in the downtown area between Eighth Street and the waterfront.

The project drew staunch opposition from various area environmentalists, as well as the Pittsburg Defense Council group. Reasons for opposition were myriad, critics said, ranging from the threat of an explosion at the terminal to prospective ground pollution issues to the vapors from the storage tanks.

Kalli Graham said the local group Pittsburg Defense Council, to which she belongs, had been fighting the oil terminal proposal since its inception, collecting more than 5,000 signatures against it in the process and even getting state Attorney General Kamala Harris to weigh in against it.

“WesPac had a big fight on its hands; there is pretty much no one in Pittsburg that wanted this,” said Graham, whose group was spreading the news among its followers Tuesday afternoon. “We don’t have to be worried about it anymore.”

City Council members Pete Longmire and Will Casey said Tuesday the council never received enough details about the project to make informed decisions on the worth of the project; even after four years of start-and-stop proposals, it was still early in the planning process.

“I was neutral on the project,” Longmire said. “I know this (WesPac) decision will make a lot of people in our city happy. But there are people in our city who wanted it to come, with the jobs it would have provided.

“The knife cuts both ways,” Longmire said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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    Pittsburg CA: Critics blast proposed oil terminal, even without Bakken crude trains

    Repost from The Contra Costa Times
    [Editor:  Significant quote: “WesPac officials said they dropped inbound crude oil shipments by rail from their plans for several reasons, including public sentiment against it, an unstable regulatory environment surrounding those shipments, and drops in crude oil prices that have made such shipments less economically viable.”  – RS]

    Pittsburg: Critics blast proposed oil terminal, even without Bakken crude trains

    By Sam Richards, 04/07/2015 12:31:04 PM PDT

    PITTSBURG — Train loads of Bakken crude oil are no longer in the plans for a proposed oil storage terminal near the waterfront, but that does not mean the project is being welcomed to town with open arms.

    The City Council voted 5-0 Monday night to approve amending the environmental report for WesPac Midstream LLC’s proposed Pittsburg Terminal Project, which would renovate and modernize a long-dormant PG&E tank farm between West 10th Street and the Sacramento River waterfront.

    The key change is that the five previously planned 104-car trains of domestic oil, mostly the volatile Bakken crude, are no longer part of the project. The new EIR will reflect that.

    Councilman Sal Evola stressed that the vote reflected the council’s desire for “the process” to play out and fully vet the proposal.

    “Every project at least deserves its fair process,” Evola said. “I’m all for preserving our industrial base, but we have to do it safely, and fair process is needed.”

    Others were less interested in process, saying the WesPac proposal to bring an average of 242,000 barrels of crude or partially refined crude oil to be unloaded daily from ships and from pipelines, and stored in 16 tanks on 125 acres, is a problem for various reasons.

    Speakers told the council that vapors from the storage tanks, the possibility of spills into the Sacramento Delta and the danger of the tanks exploding — all near hundreds of downtown homes — are potential issues, and that the project should simply be rejected.

    “The only way you can mitigate this project is not do it,” said Willie Mims, representing the NAACP and the Black Political Association.

    And though some at the meeting Monday night are grateful that WesPac that no longer plans to bring crude oil to the terminal by rail, others told the council that leaving out rail shipments doesn’t come close to salvaging the project. Some 30 people holding up “No WesPac” signs or wearing similar T-shirts crowded the council meeting.

    Without the trains, the Pittsburg Terminal Project would now take oil from ships and a pipeline from the Central Valley and store it for later processing by refineries in Martinez, Benicia, Rodeo and Richmond.

    Pamela Aranz of Antioch, representing the group Global Community Monitor, was one of several speakers who criticized the WesPac proposal as a dinosaur — old-fashioned, with increasingly outmoded technology. Others said the oil terminal would be at cross purposes with a nicely developing downtown area. Developing wind and/or solar power on that land, Aranz and others said, would make better sense.

    Plans for the Pittsburg Terminal Project, first proposed in 2011, had been dormant for the past year, after local groups like Pittsburg Defense Council had protested the prospect of trains carrying volatile Bakken crude oil rolling in to the city. Communities across the United States — including Pittsburg, Richmond and Berkeley — have come out in opposed to crude by rail shipments through their cities after several high-profile derailments, including one in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, in 2013 killed 47 people and destroyed part of that city.

    The new environmental report, to be paid for by WesPac, will replace an earlier one that was criticized in 2014 by the state Attorney General’s office because it did not suitably analyze air pollution impacts, address the risks of accidents involving storing and moving oil, consider the project’s climate change impacts, and consider a “reasonable range of alternatives” that could reduce impacts. WesPac officials said they dropped inbound crude oil shipments by rail from their plans for several reasons, including public sentiment against it, an unstable regulatory environment surrounding those shipments, and drops in crude oil prices that have made such shipments less economically viable.

    If the needed approvals come at a typical pace, renovation work at the old PG&E tanks could begin in early 2016, and likely would take between 18 and 24 months.

    Representatives from several area labor union locals supported moving ahead with the environmental study. Some said Monday night they wanted the jobs, both to rebuild the terminal and to operate it. Others said they favored the environmental process determining whether the terminal would be a safe place for union workers to be.

    That, Evola said, is one benefit of continuing the process. “We want to be overly transparent,” he said.

    That is fine with Lisa Graham and other members of Pittsburg Defense Council.

    “We’ll be shining a bright spotlight on the project in the coming months,” she said.

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      Recent Grassroots Victories: Standing Against Big Oil’s Crude-by-Rail Push

      Repost from NRDC Switchboard

      Standing Against Big Oil’s Crude-by-Rail Push

      By Franz Matzner, April 6, 2015

      Franz MatznerOver the last few days, we’ve seen a series of grassroots victories that prove we’re not stuck with Big Oil’s plan to foist dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure on communities across the country.

      Oil Train Fire.jpg
      A March 5, 2015, oil train derailment on the banks of the Galena River in Illinois. (Environmental Protection Agency)

      Just last week, TransCanada (of Keystone XL infamy) confirmed that it is dropping a marine crude oil export terminal in Quebec due to environmental concerns, a move that will delay the target opening date for the massive Energy East tar sands pipeline by at least two years.

      Across the continent, Big Oil was also dealt two blows against its attempts to import extreme crudes into California by rail. In the face of strong community opposition, midstream oil company WesPac has abandoned its plan to build a rail terminal that would have brought dirty crude oil into the San Francisco Bay Area.

      A few years ago, WesPac proposed a rail and marine terminal that would transport 242,000 barrels per day of crude oil–nearly a third of the capacity of Keystone XL–through Pittsburg, CA, a small community of 60,000 residents and then on to Bay Area refineries. The problems with WesPac’s proposal are myriad: it would expose Pittsburg’s population, largely communities of color and low-income communities, to the risks of exploding trains and increased air pollution, and it would require a massive investment in fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when we should be moving toward clean energy solutions.

      The project was so ill-conceived that, following comments by NRDC and others, the California Attorney General wrote a letter finding “significant legal problems” with the project’s environmental review documents. Accordingly, the city decided to put the project on hold and revisit its environmental review process. That’s where things stood for over a year, until last week, when WesPac announced that it would drop the rail terminal aspect of the project altogether.

      As community and environmental advocates have repeatedly pointed out, oil trains pose serious risks–risks that were highlighted by a series of fiery accidents over the last few weeks. (Notably, some recent accidents have involved Canadian tar sands crude, in addition to a bevy of dangerous mishaps involving North Dakota’s Bakken crude, which has long been known to be highly volatile and has been the culprit in most oil train disasters.)

      This win in Pittsburg follows a recent decision by another Bay Area city, Benicia, to withdraw and revise its environmental review documents for a proposed crude-by-rail terminal at Valero’s Benicia refinery. As NRDC and others, including the California Attorney General, pointed out in legal comments, the terminal would pose serious safety and health threats to Benicia and to residents along the rail line. Momentum is also building against another crude-by-rail proposal up for consideration further south in San Luis Obispo County.

      These victories show the power of local communities to stop Big Oil in its tracks.

      The battle, however, is far from over: Valero is still trying to push forward with its rail terminal, and WesPac’s proposed marine terminal would have significant impacts on the fragile San Francisco Bay Delta and nearby residents. In fact, WesPac’s plans may still include the renovation of long-dormant storage tanks to stockpile large volumes of volatile crude oil, even though those tanks are literally a stone’s throw from homes, churches, and a school.

      Train Map.jpg
      The proposed WesPac project. (Draft Recirculated Environmental Impact Report, Figure 2-2)

      Some critics have used the boom in crude oil trains as evidence that we should allow more pipelines. They offer the false choice of risk from pipelines or risk from oil trains. The truth is more sinister. Big Oil wants more of both. Pipelines and rail serve different geographic areas and often carry different types of oil. The problem is that both forms of transportation have risks, and both bring fossil fuels perilously close to our communities. Clean energy investments do the opposite: they eliminate the dangerous risks of spills and bomb trains, while cutting carbon pollution.

      It’s time our elected leaders follow the example of communities across the country by saying “no” to Big Oil and “yes” to clean solutions that accelerate fuel efficiency, electric vehicles, clean fuels, and renewable energy such as solar and wind.

      Franz A. Matzner is associate director of government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council. His policy background includes energy, climate, and forestry. He previously held the position of senior policy analyst for agriculture and the environment at Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS). Matzner graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania. He is co-author of the NRDC report “Safe At Home: Making the Federal Fire Safety Budget Work for Communities.”
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